Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Ten Days After Yolanda"

A Poem by Jimiliz Valiente-Neighbours
Offered in Worship
Sunday, November 24, 2013

Notes: Our friend Jimi Valiente-Neighbours offered this poem as part of our Sunday morning worship at Peace United Church of Christ.  Born and raised in the Philippines, Jimi was moved by the photo below and the courage of Filipino women in response to the immensity of this month's typhoon. 
Photo: Philippe Lopez, "Procession: Ten Days after Yolanda"

She pats her hair,
still wet from this morning
when she was lucky enough to get a pail of clean water,
lucky enough to find a space
behind two pieces of corrugated metal roof where she could wash with her clothes on.
She pats her hair,
still wet but also greasy
because she had to share the tiny packet of shampoo with her neighbor
and they’re supposed to make it last for another day.
She pats her hair,
still wet but also greasy, but at least it’s softer
because the pail of cold, clean water she was lucky enough to get this morning
washed away some of the dirt
that had made her curly hair heavy,
which weighed her head down.
She pats her hair,
wet and greasy but soft.
She thought about putting it up in a bun,
but she didn’t want to look old like her neighbor
so she let it fly
in the cool breeze to dry
because it’s still wet, like the tall coconut trees around her
their leaves hanging heavy and tired, exhausted from the typhoon.
She smooths her shirt,
her short-sleeved t-shirt,
like the ones her daughters loved to wear.
Perhaps it’s a little too casual for the occasion,
and wrinkly, and musty
but it’s the cleanest she has at the moment.
And it’s dry,
and it’s green,
with graphics on the front,
so she smooths her shirt
and it’s fine.
She is just happy to have something that fits.
And the cool breeze flows from one end of the sleeve to the other
and she gets a little cold,
so she picks up her Jesus statue, her brown and black Jesus statue,
and hugs it to her chest,
her arms encircling the base
so that her right hand could still clutch a rosary
and her left hand could still clutch Virgin Mary,
and with that she is ready for the procession
to walk alongside her neighbor,
who did decide to put her hair in a bun.
She counts her steps
as she walks along the muddy street.
She counts her steps
to stop from crying,
because along the muddy street
are debris
are dreams deferred
are dog and human feces
are daughters and sons still looking for their parents
are desperate parents still looking for their children
are desperate people still looking for food
are desperate people looting for food.
She counts her steps, her sidesteps, and her missteps
and is torn whether to judge them
because the Lord God says not to steal
but is looting stealing
when they’re hungry and angry and afraid?
And they have nothing to lose because they have nothing?
And they have nothing because others are hoarding?
When they’ve been waiting for far too long for help
and when that help finally comes, it comes with the politicians’ last names
printed on water bottles and canned goods and thong slippers--
help that asks for help?
Is looting stealing?
She looks down at her feet,
a thin, thong slipper line apart from the mud of the street.
She counts her step
and says to God, hell no.
Ten days after Yolanda, in the town of Tolosa, under the sky so gray,
there is a handful of women marching,
whose hands, and arms, and bodies, really,
are bearing their crosses, and the figures of Hesu Cristo and Santo Nino.
They are walking alongside the mother, praying with her, praying for her.
And when they reach their destination at the end of the procession,
the mother lays her brown and black Jesus statue down, and the rosary, and the Virgin Mary,
on the graves of her daughters, for whom she wore the green shirt and washed her hair.